I have given this sobriety anniversary business more thought. A couple of folks here and on Reddit took me to task for my last post. They reminded me that sobriety anniversaries are less about me, and more a demonstration to others that the program works. These responses are important. I have posted before about how I “recycle” my sobriety coins at each anniversary. I reconsidered the essence of my thinking on this point. I concluded that I wanted to double down on my sentiment, and the message I pass on to others as well:
- My recovery has less to do with the fact that I have not engaged directly in my “addiction of choice” for a certain period, but more how I have lived through those years. I have posted before that my behaviors in recovery have been less than ideal and sometimes I question if the appropriateness of my behaviors are commensurate with my length of sobriety.
- Part of my thinking on this certainly comes from my eating disorder recovery process. (For the non believers, I consider ED as serious/lethal as alcohol or drug addiction.) In OA, everyone defines their own abstinence, and the definition can be a moving target. For example, while I was up at 12,000 feet for several weeks this summer, I adapted my diet to include some foods I would not eat in New Orleans. And so forth.
- I am less interested that my sobriety anniversary is August 4, 1984, my nicotine-free anniversary is December 31, 1997, and my eating disorder abstinence date is December 15 (?), 2015. What is important to me is that in August of 1984 I made a decision to begin living life on life’s terms instead of practicing my addictions to escape. If I relapse on alcohol tomorrow, eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, or smoke a cigar that first decision date in 1984 will remain the same.
- I have come to view not actively practicing my addiction as the opportunity to begin the process of discovering and living into true self. I don’t believe I can do that while anesthetized with my addiction of choice. I also know that from my experience over the past three decades, that my behaviors at times have not been ideal and have the potential to be filled with as much “self-will run riot” as when actively practicing my addictions.
- I don’t want to be viewed primarily as an old-timer with accumulated experience, strength, and hope based on seniority. Yes, over the years I have learned a lot about what works and what does not work in recovery, and can/do pass that on – in fact, that is my primary reason for writing this blog! But I thoroughly enjoy, count on, and look forward to knowing that I can learn as much from the person with one week of sobriety about living into true self and recovery as someone with three decades of sobriety. I want to stay “green” in that regard and open to those possibilities.
In the above contexts, I am not primarily interested in sobriety anniversaries. More important than my length of sobriety is what I have chosen to do with that recovery opportunity. For that, I am grateful.